– David McCullough, American historian and author
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Hardly has a Christmas hymn undergone so many changes to get from what was originally written, to what we sing today. “Hark” was first written by Charles Wesley who was said to have been inspired by the joyous sounds of London church bells heard during a walk to church on Christmas Day. It was published in his brother John’s collection of Hymns and Sacred Poems, 2 vols.
Charles’ original text (Hark! How All The Welkin Rings, which consisted of 10 four-line verses) was rewritten by George Whitefield (1714-1770) in 1753 (changing the first two lines), and by Reverend Martin Madan (1726-1790) in 1760 (changing lines seven and eight). Other changes occurred in 1782, 1810, and 1861.
In addition to the textual changes, two different tunes have been attached. Originally, the tune was one commonly affixed to Wesley’s celebrated Easter song, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” According to William Studwell, it was “a poor fit at best.”
Excerpted from: HymnsandCarolsofChristmas.com